If you’re sick of having to remember when to take your birth control pill or whether you have condoms on hand, there’s another — more millennial-friendly — birth control option to consider. Natural Cycles is an app that’ll keep you from becoming pregnant and it’s definitely worth trying out if you’re not a fan of hormonal methods or more permanent forms of birth control, such as an implant or an IUD. And what makes it even more promising: It’s the world’s first app to be approved as a form of contraception.
As NPR reported on Thursday, the app’s creator, Elina Berglund — a Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist from Sweden — wanted to develop “a natural way to avoid pregnancy.” It looks at a woman’s daily temperature along with her fertility data — such as menstruation dates, cycle irregularities, and sperm survival — and, with that information and a special algorithm, the app will let you know which days you need to use protection.
“You measure your temperature first thing in the morning before you get out of bed,” according to the app’s website. “This reading is an indirect measure of your hormone levels and the information the app needs to effectively analyse your cycle and calculate your red or green day.”
A green day means the risk of pregnancy is low as you are not fertile, while a red day means you should either avoid having sex or use protection.
But, you won’t be able to take your temperature with the same thermometer you would if you had a fever. You’ll need a “two decimal basal thermometer,” which is more sensitive. You can buy one for about $10 online through Amazon or at major stores like Target. Or one will be included in the app’s subscription if you sign up for the yearly plan, which costs about $7 a month, or $79.99 a year. You can also try the app for free for 30 days, or pay $10 a month if you're not ready to commit to a full year.
While this isn't the first fertility tracking app to be invented — indeed, there are lots of them out there — it is the first one to be certified as an approved form of birth control in the European Union. According to NPR, a clinical study of 4,000 women who used the app with the thermometer found that only a small percentage of women got pregnant when compared to those who used other menstrual cycle tracking apps or the calendar method.
And it can even be slightly more reliable than the pill and the NuvaRing when they're not used perfectly, which are only 92 percent effective based on "typical use" — meaning anything from forgetting to take the pill or doing so at a different time each day — according to Options for Sexual Health. As NPR reported, Natural Cycles' effectiveness rate is 93 percent.
It's important to note that this app does not protect against sexually transmitted infections or diseases. And while anyone who is looking for a natural method of birth control can use the app, Natural Cycles recommends it's best for women between the ages of 20 and 40 who are in a stable relationship and are comfortable with using condoms on red days.
Choosing a form of birth control is a very personal and important decision that affects all women and their families. The pill works best for some, while an IUD or condoms may be the way to go for others. And while those tried-and-true methods are out there, it's pretty impressive that this app is almost equally effective and it's totally natural.